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Welcome to the sixth in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Santino Prinzi is in conversation with micro fiction competition judge, Kevlin Henney, who discusses clichés, live performances, and editing tips...

Santino: Kevlin, you’ve read, written, and judged many micros in your time. What, in your opinion, makes a micro pop?

Kevlin: Like anything that pops, there has to be some kind of energy to release. There’s not a lot of space in a micro, so use of language is essential not just structural. Whether the language is shaken or stirred, it can’t be flat — language is where that released energy comes from.

Depending on the story, the language can be spare, novel, humorous, grave, playful, meditated, slow, fast, but it should definitely be. Every word, every construction, is working in a gig economy, passing through but holding down multiple jobs. They have their grammatical roles to fulfil, but they also need to pass interviews on flavour — or feel or colour or whichever sense metaphor captures for you the quality of the story you sense and want the reader to experience — pace, mood, appropriateness — don’t stumble from pathos to bathos. Write but don’t be writerly.

Santino: Where do you draw inspiration for your own work?

Kevlin: Many of my stories grow from moments, either imagined or observed. A toddler unlocking the door of a public toilet onto a concourse, mother not yet ready. A teenager discovering a seam on her neck. Being served an empty plate in a restaurant.

And then this moment sparks another thought or shacks up with another moment... and before you know it a story is growing, whether gently below the surface of your awareness or in a mad rush through your fingers onto the page. There’s rarely a big idea or a strict intention — if those are present in the final story, they are usually late arrivals, realised sometime after the small idea or the accidental insight.

Santino: I have seen you read your flash fiction at various live events and you always read with energy and character. How important do you think going to live readings of flash fiction, or any literature, is?

Kevlin: Where the written word counts as a single medium of expression, reading counts as many. The written word can come alive through sight, through sound and, via Braille, through touch. Reading is sensual.

Giving life to fiction through live readings adds a public performance side to the otherwise private life of personal reading. Stories can support public and private experiences, extrovert and introvert contexts, the prosocial and the hermetic. A live reading can show both listener and reader different sides of a story, it can bring stories to new audiences, it can contribute to the experience of an event, it can be downright fun!

Compared with longer forms, flash fiction is the fiction of minutes not quarter hours, falling comfortably within the limits of attention span, jostling with poetry as a natural fit for this platform.

Santino: People argue that the key to writing great flash fiction isn’t only in the act of writing itself but in the editing, too. Could you please share your favourite writing and/or editing tips that help you transform the idea in your head into the piece of writing you wish it to be?

Kevlin: Editing is where the story can go from toddling around, bumping into inconsistencies and not yet sure of itself, to coming of age, with a sureness of purpose and more solid wordfall.

For me, editing is where I wrangle the words and sentences to defamiliarise and refamiliarise myself with the story. Work out what story is being told while working out how to tell it. Noise words, jobless clauses and filler sentences served a supporting role in the initial draft, but their contract’s over, so let them go.

But what about repetition and cliché? Repetition is double edged (or triple, quadruple...). Conventionally repetition is something to strike out, but repetition can lend a story foreshadowing, theme, pace and rhythm. The answer is not as simple as three strikes and it’s out.

And rather than say that clichés should be avoided, any cliché should either tell us of era or of person — if a cliché has a strong association, work that angle, you’re worldbuilding with an economy of words — or it should be played with and subverted — surprise the reader! But clichés that just fill the space don’t spark joy, so bin them.

Santino: If you could liken flash fiction to a piece of technology, fictional or real, what would it be and why?

Kevlin: Flash fiction is a smartphone. It fits in your pocket but contains the world. You can get lost in it. You can show others. You can take it anywhere and anywhen.

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and books and articles on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree (Daily Science FictionLitroNew ScientistPhysics WorldSpelkReflex FictionLabLitFlight Journal and many more) and has been included in a number of anthologies (The Dark Half of the Year,North by SouthwestWe Can Improve YouHauntedSalt Anthology of New WritingRipeningSleep Is a Beautiful Colour and many more). As well as having his work rejected and make no impression whatsoever on writing competitions, Kevlin’s stories have been longlisted, shortlisted and placed, and he won the CrimeFest 2014 Flashbang contest. He reads at spoken word events, winning the National Flash-Fiction Day Oxford flash slam in 2012, and has performed his work on local radio (BBC Radio Bristol and Ujima). Kevlin has been involved in the organisation of the Bristol Festival of Literature and events for National Flash-Fiction Day. He lives in Bristol and online, where he can stalked as @KevlinHenney on Twitter, @kevlinhenney on Medium and @kevlin.henney on Instagram.

SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We would like to start by thanking everyone who has donated to National Flash Fiction Day. This has enabled us to be able to offer free entry to authors who may not otherwise be able to submit. It makes a real difference, so thank you.

We have a number of free entries for our Micro Fiction competition and our “Doors” themed anthology available to authors from marginalised backgrounds or anyone suffering economic hardship.

To be considered eligible for a free entry, you must meet at least one from the following criteria:

  • Recipient of Universal Credit or Carer’s Allowance.
  • Recipient of a state retirement pension and little other income.
  • BAME writer.
  • LGBTQIA+ or Non-Binary writer.
  • Disabled.
  • Full-time university students.

You do not need to state which applies to you if you’d prefer not to, and we will not be asking for proof of eligibility.

We expect demand to outstrip the number of entries we can provide, and we would like to offer entries to as many people as possible. Free entries will be offered in good faith, but we would like to advise authors who do have means to pay for entry to do so instead.

To apply, please send an email to FreeEntryNFFD@gmail.com and state which is your first choice: micro fiction competition entry, or “Doors” themed anthology entry. If we are able to offer you a free entry, we will advise you on how to redeem this.

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible through donations. We shall remain open to donations, for those who wish to still donate, which can be done through the donation button on our submission guidelines pages.

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Welcome to the fifth in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons chats with one of this year's micro fiction competition judges, Judy Darley, about her forthcoming collection and what she's looking for when judging our micro competition...

Diane: Your collection, Remember Me to the Bees, was published by Tangent books in 2014 and your second collection, Sky Light Rain, is out soon. Can you tell us a little about them both? 

Judy: Remember Me to the Bees was actually published by micropress Scopophilia, though Tangent Books kindly host it on their site. It brings together 20 of my short stories exploring the way people attempt to survive and thrive, and the mistakes we can make in the process. A reviewer described it as a book of lost and broken people and things, which seems to fit. 

Sky Light Rain will be published by Valley Press, and will contain my short stories, flash fictions and poetry. Flash fiction is increasingly the medium I turn to in exploring my fascination with the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind.

Diane: For the last couple of years, you have run a flash walk in Bristol to celebrate NFFD. Could you tell me a bit about the walk and how it came into being?

Judy: I love experiencing fiction in different ways. A few years ago I took part in a St Ann’s Day pilgrimage across part of Bristol in which actors performed site-specific stories. One of mine was included and there was something magical about being part of a horde of people all brought together with the same intent, listening to words unfurl in unlikely places. At last year’s Flash Walk, we got a trio of fantastic actors on board to share 12 amazing stories. My favourite bit is meeting people who have never ventured out on anything like a flash walk before, and seeing the intrigue on the faces of people passing by. The enjoyment of fiction can be contagious!

Diane: I have heard you perform your flashes several times and always read so well. Do you enjoy reading to an audience? 

Judy: Thanks so much! I love reading to an audience, but I have to make sure I practice a lot beforehand. There’s always a chance nerves will wriggle in and make my mind go blank. If I know the story well enough, that’s not a problem: the words just bubble up and I keep going with, hopefully, the audience none the wiser.

Diane: You are one of the judges for this year’s NFFD micro competition. Is there anything you are particularly looking for in a micro flash? Is there anything that you think makes a micro stand out?

Judy: A micro flash can be such a powerful thing. I’m hoping to discover pieces that move me with emotions that bubble just beneath the surface. A skilful flash writer can condense the resonance of a novel into 100-words. I want to read pieces that leave ripples.

Diane: Do you have a favourite flash? Either one you’ve written, or one by another writer? 

Judy: There are so many breathtaking flash fiction writers emerging that I seem to discover new favourites most days. Frances Gapper has some wonderful flashes in her collection In The Wild Wood, and 'Gingerbread' by Joanna Campbell, which appeared in Ripening: National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2018, is a rare, unsettling treat. The true test for me is whether I remember them long after reading. Grace Palmer’s ‘In 1960’, published by FlashBack Fiction  has haunted me for months.

 

Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist who can't stop writing about the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind. Her flash fiction and stories have been published by magazines and anthologies in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, including Seren Books, MslexiaUnthology 8 and SmokeLong Quarterly, as well as in her debut collection Remember Me To The Bees. Sky Light Rain, her second collection, will be published by Valley Press in autumn 2019. She has shared her stories on BBC radio, as well as in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Find Judy at http://www.SkyLightRain.com, and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.

 

SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

Welcome to the fourth in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons squeezes out secrets from one of this year's anthology editors, Santino Prinzi...

Diane: The theme for this year’s NFFD anthology is ‘Doors’. Is there anything in particular you are looking for in a submission?

Santino: This is always a difficult question to answer because I’m always surprised and awe-struck by the variety of ways writers interpret our anthology themes. No matter the ways in which I imagine, everyone always takes it to another level. In last year’s anthology, Ripening, authors created such incredibly varied stories about food, taking their stories in directions I couldn't have dreamed.

That’s what I want again this year! I want stories that offer such a unique take on the theme that it’s screaming to be shared with the world. Doors absolutely must be integral to the story – in what way is up to you to decide.

If you’re flummoxed, make yourself come up with 6 different ideas. Not full stories, merely gut responses. This forces you to think harder, to dig deeper. I can almost guarantee idea number 5 or 6 will excite you. Knock on that door, see who answers!

Diane: You are editing the anthology this year with Joanna Campbell. You have worked on previous editions with Meg Pokrass and Alison Powell. Can you explain a little about the editing process and, in particular, whether there is usually much consensus between the two editors over which stories to choose?

Santino: First and foremost: our anthology editors read every single story submitted. Each editor makes a list of their favourite 50 stories from all those submissions and any stories that are on both of the editors’ lists are automatically in. Most years, there’s usually around 20 stories or so that appear on both lists. The editors then discuss which stories fill these remaining spaces. We also only feature one story per person because we like to include as many different perspectives as possible in our anthologies. The only exception to this is when an author has a story selected for the anthology and has placed in the top ten for the micro fiction competition because the micro competition is judged separately. 

Editing the anthology is always such a joy. Every guest editor has their own take, their own preferences. Most of all, every editor I have worked with has shown such care and consideration for the stories they read. They take their time, they read and re-read, and they discuss these stories with such insight. I always learn so much working with these wonderful editors. I think that’s what makes these anthologies quite special -- and the stories of course!

After the stories have been chosen, there’s a lot more work to do. I won’t bore you with those details…

Diane: Last year V. Press published your flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This. Can you tell me a little about the pamphlet, particularly what you learned from putting it together?

Santino: There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This was born from playful disbelief. I almost didn’t send V-Press the manuscript. When they were open for submissions, I thought that it was something I’d love to do but I didn’t have any material. I didn’t want to waste their time. 

I write stories about LGBTQ+ people. Not consciously, it just happens more often than not. One evening I collected some of these stories together to what would it look like. I saw connections and common themes that I didn’t see in these stories as individuals. I just went for it. If you don't, it's a no. If you do, maybe it might not be...

There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This by Santino Prinzi

There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This, then, is a series of flashes that attempt to normalise the LGBTQ+ experience. This isn’t, in any way, to devalue LGBTQ+ people and these experiences, but rather to not let these flashes be defined by stereotypes. These characters are LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ is who they are, it’s not what they do. What happens to the characters in these stories happens to them because they are people. People love, people fight, people learn lessons the hard way. Love is love, an argument is an argument, a lesson learned is a lesson learned. 

Regardless of our differences, we share a commonality. I think the title of the pamphlet suggests this too. We’re all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We exist in our own little world and our perspective of it, but we’re all a part of the bigger story and the shared human experience.

I'm currently working on a full-length collection of flash fiction. I've developed a new writing process which has meant I have a lot of unpublished drafts, and refining this material will be my focus (I hope) after editing the anthology this year. Some of it may even creep out into the world...

Diane: You studied creative writing at Bath Spa University. Was it there that you first encountered flash fiction? And if so, what was your preferred form before that?

Santino: I think most people who study creative writing do so with certain expectations, certain ideas in their head. I didn’t have a preferred form, though I fancied writing YA. I joke that I was going to write a novel that would out-sell John Green. However, as you dive in to study with pre-conceived notions swirling around, you’re encouraged to loosen your grip so you can be open to new possibilities. I attended a reading by a writer who soon became one of my favourites: Tania Hershman. 

Tania’s words off the page as well as on them opened my eyes to the possibilities within very short forms, as well as giving yourself permission to experiment and explore the freedom you actually have when writing. If you are not familiar with Tania’s work, buy her books. You’ll thank me later.

Diane: How important do you think titles are in flash fictions? 

Santino: Titles are powerful and they’re often underestimated. They can define the meaning of your entire story, or the meaning of the title can slowly shift and fade into various meanings as you progress through the story itself. I like titles that demand my attention, that are risky. All writing, in a way, is about taking risks, so why not take risks with our titles?

Titles are also hard to decide upon, but they don’t need to be complicated. As much as I’m a sucker for a title that’s as mysterious as it is poetic, a simple one-word title can be just as effective. I think the title of our 2017 anthology, Sleep is a Beautiful Colour, is a great example. Helen Rye’s title is unusual, conjures a strong image, creates intrigue and, while reading the story, you understand how it is integral to the flash itself.

Santino Prinzi
Santino Prinzi

 

Santino Prinzi is a Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, a Consulting Editor for New Flash Fiction Review, and is one of the founding organisers of the annual Flash Fiction Festival. His flash fiction pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This (2018), is available from V-Press, and his short flash collection, Dots and other flashes of perception (2016), is available from The Nottingham Review Press. As well as a nominee for the Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions, and the Pushcart Prize, his writing has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, And Other Poems, The AirgonautStories for Homes Anthology Vol.2 and many more. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: santinoprinzi.com

 

SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

Welcome to the third in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Santino Prinzi speaks with Diane Simmons about judging this year's micro fiction competition, and the release of her debut flash fiction collection...

Santino: Your debut flash fiction collection Finding a Way will be published this week by Ad Hoc Fiction Press. Congratulations! Would you mind telling us a little bit about the collection and how it came into being?

Diane: Thank you, Tino. Finding a Way is being published on the 9th February. It is a collection of 51 connected flashes on the theme of grief. Told from various points of view, it follows a family over a three and a half year period as they navigate loss. Following the death of my daughter, Laura in 2015, I wrote almost exclusively about grief for a while and it occurred to me that this might be an interesting subject for a collection. It also occurred to me that the stories may help people in some way – both those grieving and those dealing with someone they know who is experiencing grief. Originally intended as a pamphlet, Ad Hoc Fiction approached me in January 2018 offering publication if I turned it into a full collection.

Santino: Though you’re no stranger to flash fiction and judging competitions, this is your first year judging National Flash Fiction Day’s micro fiction competition. What excites you about judging for this competition and what will you be looking for as a judge?

Diane: Winning third prize in NFFD’s micro competition in 2015 is one of my writing highlights, so to now help judge the competition is really exciting.  I’m a bit of a fan of flashes with a story to them – a beginning, middle and end. I often prefer realistic stories, but having said that, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by stories that don’t fit my criteria, often enjoying things with a touch of surrealism. I would just advise people to write what they want to write and not try and guess what a judge might favour.

Santino: If flash fiction were a type of food, what would it be and why?

Diane: My first thought was that it should be something I could eat quickly, but that would also be filling and satisfying, but then I thought maybe a curry. If you eat a curry in a restaurant that really knows its stuff, then you can taste every individual spice, but each spice adds up to a wonderful overall taste. I think this is a little like a flash – with so few words every word has to zing and contribute something.

Santino: You’ve read your flash fiction at various live events and on the radio. Has reading your work at events helped you grow as a writer in any way? What advice would you give to writers who may be nervous about reading or may have never read at an event before?

Diane: I used to be terrified at the thought of reading out loud to an audience. But now I enjoy it and it has really helped my confidence as a writer. Seeing and hearing an audience react to a story (whether they are laughing or crying) is a very rewarding thing. I think it’s really important to practise reading and I start weeks before and record loads of versions on my phone. When I first started reading to an audience, I would grab any friend who came through my door and make them listen to me practise. That really helped me get over my nerves – if you can read in front of someone you know, then doing it in front of a bunch of strangers is not such a problem. I never read from a book, but print out my story in large print and mark dialogue in colour (with a different colour for each speaker). I also read very slowly so the audience has time to take it in and I also try to look up and engage with the audience, though this is difficult to do and can sometimes lead to me losing my place.

Santino: You’re holding an online launch for your debut flash collection on Monday 11th February. Can you tell us more about it? What can we expect and how can we check it out?

Diane: My online launch will be a Facebook event from 8-9pm on the 11th February and will be an open group so that everyone can join in. I think it will be really wonderful to get together lots of my friends from all over the world. There will be films of me reading a few stories and also one of Jude Higgins interviewing me. Hopefully, there will be lots of chat about the book too. There will also be virtual wine, crisps and possibly chocolate brownies. Everyone can join in here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1112066998950546/

 

Diane SimmonsDiane Simmons is a writer, editor, a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day, and part of the organising team for Flash Fiction Festivals UK. She has been an editor for FlashFlood, a flash fiction judge and for three years was a reader for the Bath Short Story Competition. Her fiction has featured in a variety of anthologies and publications including Mslexia; New Flash Fiction Review; To Carry Her Home, BFFA Vol One;The Lobsters Run Free, BFFA Vol 2; Flash Fiction Festival, Vols One and Two; Flash I Love You (Paper Swans); FlashBack Fiction; Micro Madness; and six National flash Fiction Day UK anthologies. In 2009 she won second place in ITV's This Morning National Short Story Competition and since then has been placed in many flash fiction and short story contests, including the HISSAC flash prize; the NFFD micro competition; Writers' Forum Short Story Competition; Worcester Literature Festival Flash Competition; 99 Fiction; NAWG; and The Frome International Short Story Competition. Her stories have also been shortlisted for numerous competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award; Exeter Flash; and Flash 500. Her debut collection of flash, ‘Finding a Way’ is being published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019. She tweets @scooterwriter. You can learn more about Diane at https://www.dianesimmons.co.uk/.

 

SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.